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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

3 minute philosophy - #davidhume

in summary

- he was a 18 century scottish philosopher who was a key figure in what was known as the scottish enlightment

- his big thing was scepticism - the position that true knowledge is unattainable and so the real world - if indeed there is one - is unknowable

- because empiricism claims all knowledge is derived from the senses Hume concluded that the only statements humankind can make about the world are those that place human experience at the absolute centre of reality because human experience and reality is as close as we can get to the truth

- he was an atheist (although he couldn't say that at the time as it was punishable by death)

- he thought the idea of god was nonsense because there is no way of arriving at the idea through sense data and for Hume that was all the data that existed

- he put forward the concept known as bundle theory - the idea that features (or properties) of objects are all that exist - there is no actual object of which they are the features - he defended this approach by asking people to imagine an object without properties

- applying bundle theory to the concept of you means that you don't exist - Hume thought there was no such thing as self - in contrast to descartes "I think therefore I am" approach

- Hume was also a big fan of the emerging idea of the scientific method - the interpretation of emperical data as the basis of all knowledge

- but a problem through his life was the problem of induction - which is that all science is based on a logical fallacy 

- the induction fallacy states that just because something happened in the past doesn't mean we can assume it will happen again no matter how often it seems to happen (e.g. if all the apples you have seen have been green you still can't logically make the statement that all apples are green)

- obviously this is a problem for science as an idea underneath science is that it assumes that under the same conditions everything always happens in the same way and if an event can be reproduced then we have knowledge about that event

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